Davis Dry Goods, 1873

From A Tour of St. Louis by J.A. Dacus and James Buel (1878). The Samuel C. Davis Company occupied a five story building at the corner of Fifth Street and Washington Avenue (fronting Fifth). The building had a cast iron facade and single-sheet plate glass windows; costing more than $30,000 when built. Construction began in August 1871 and finished in March 1873. The site is now home to a three-story commercial building.

More from Dacus and Buel:
"This fine specimen of architectural strength and beauty has a frontal of one hundred and seventy-five feet on Fifth Street by one hundred and twenty-five feet on Washington Avenue, and contains, including the basement, six floors. In the rear of this immense building there is a broad, well-paved area left open to insure a sufficient light, as well as to facilitate the reception and delivery of the enormous quantities of goods which are daily handled by the firm."

Description of the interior:
"Passing from the imposing exterior to the interior, the promise from without is more than fulfilled in the wide view and perfection of detail that meets the eye. Running through from front to rear, at a distance of about twenty-five feet apart,' are rows of iron columns with Corinthian capitals, supporting the floors above. Light is amply provided for, being admitted from three sides—on the east and south the windows being only separated from each other by the iron work which forms the two fronts. On tables arranged with something like mathematical precision, are to be seen the goods that belong to the departments represented on this floor. These are foreign and American dress goods, including silks and prints, in fact all varieties belonging to the entire dry goods line of business, to an extent impossible to enumerate here. From the basement to the uppermost floor of the building, extend four separate elevators, each of which, unlike the majority of elevators in other business houses, has automatic doors that close the hatchway or shaft at every floor as the elevator passes through, so that safety against a fall down the shaft is assured. These elevators work quietly and effectively. One of them carries up goods in original packages; another carries goods upon trucks to be distributed on the various floors; a third conveys goods down that are prepared for shipment, and the fourth is used only for passengers. Everything proceeds without the slightest irregularity or confusion, and the work of many. hands goes on day by day silently yet systematically."

Fire protection measures:
"It is a marvel to witness the amount of merchandise taken in and out by way of the basement of this commodious building in one day. The engine, another adjunct worthy of special notice, is situated in a cosy room in a corner of the basement, is of forty-horse power and does its work quietly and well. It is an elaborate and beautiful piece of machinery, similar to the one which carried away the premium at Philadelphia during the great Centennial exhibition. The basement is made to extend under the sidewalk of the streets, and is fully lighted through the thick glass set in iron-work overhead. It is also provided with fire-proof vaults, in which the old books and accounts of the firm are preserved. The preparations made by this firm for the extinguishment of fires are as extensive as they are ingenious. Each floor is provided with fifty feet of best rubber hope and nozzles, the same in size as that used by the city ; the power to force the water being furnished by a fire pump in the engine room of greater capacity than any of the city fire engines. In case, however, the fire should originate at a time when there was no steam in the boilers, connection is provided on the outside, to which any of the city engines may join their hose and throw water through the hose belonging to the firm upon any floor or into any apartment of the building."

Quite the store, Samuel C. Davis Company was.

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